Not long ago, but now forgotten, in the United States, there was HOPE. And it was Barack Obama who promised it and then embodied it. The year was 2008 when the US was grappling with sinking economy, torn with wars desperate to reverse the pernicious practices of the Bush years. ‘Yes We Can’ and ‘Change You Can Believe In’ were slogans that were the white ray of hope. An American born in Honolulu to a white woman and a Kenyan black man, raised by a strong grandmother, Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States defying all odds. With a name like that, he was always the Outsider.
But the ‘Forward’ campaign for the second term is not a ‘shoo-in’ as was predicted. The Democratic Party distributed 3.5 million copies of the Obama plan for term-2, with 1.5 million copies available for distribution from campaign field offices and the rest mailed to voters’ homes. Did anyone actually read them? The President spoke about it all of last week as he criss-crossed the country, voice hoarse in earnestness. He listed out what he achieved in his 1st term: Obamacare (healthcare), cutting middle class taxes, the bail out, bringing back troops from Iraq, ending the Afghan war and of course, killing Osama bin Laden. Should be enough, one would think, for rewarding him with four more years. But in large swathes of the country, people are not convinced.
“This is my last political campaign,” said Obama, and there is finality to the promise which is not something you hear in India. The 22nd amendment of the United States Constitution sets a two term limit for election to the office of President. In India, there are no such laws and our politicians don’t come with an expiry date.
Barack Obama has been steadily losing vote share for nearly 30 days. Of course it is the voting day that will matter the most. According to the pundits if early voters come in and cast their vote, that goes to his advantage. But what is worrisome for the Democrats is that many are saying that the third debate showed that Mitt Romney passed the Commander-in-Chief test and that matters a lot. Perception plays an important role in American politics. Obama, meanwhile, is switching gears constantly, being presidential and remote at times and turning snarky and arrogant, the next. In one interview he said, “You know, kids have good instincts….they look at the other guy and say, “Well, that’s a bullsh***er, I can tell.” The gloves have come off, votes are needed, now it is an all out scramble to the finish line.
Popular vote shows Obama neck to neck or even lower than Romney but the electoral vote is in Obama’s favor. Romney promises ‘Real Change’ and appeals to Americans to ‘take back America’. He promises 12 million jobs but no great strategy how he is going to be doing it.
Almost two billion dollars are being spent on this election by both the parties. The candidates opted out of public financing system of $100 million and raised their own funding. “The amount of money that is being spent…is ridiculous….this is bad for our democracy,” said Obama. But there is no option to the waste of election. The Democratic Party opened 800 field offices across the country in comparison to just 300 by the Republican Party. Clearly once the elections are over, the interest groups and those cash cows who financed the candidates will influence policy and decisions.
Now at the last lap, the messages have been delivered and there are very few undecided voters left. It is all a numbers game from this point, how many early voters turned up days before polling day and cast their votes to avoid the lines, how many absentee ballots, the committed voters turning up in large numbers on polling day, all this could, in a bizarre manner turn the tide, especially in the swing states. It is an election to select the most powerful man on this planet. The contest quite naturally, is tough and keenly watched.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash